Air pollution kills more than 20,500 people in the UK every year.
That’s according to the 2019 Lancet Countdown report, which collates research and statistics from scientists and experts from all around the world – it’s latest edition forecasts climate change and air pollution will result in millions more premature deaths over the next decade.
It notes air pollution is primarily driven by industry, transport, electricity generation, and agriculture, as well as by cooking in Africa – global deaths attributable to fine particulate matter totalled 2.9 million in 2016, with global air pollution deaths reaching seven million.
Despite the collapse of coal markets and generation across much of the western world leading to the number of premature deaths caused as a result having dropped slightly in Europe and the Western Pacific, more than 440,000 premature deaths are still estimated to be associated with coal burning each year.
The report criticises global governments for continuing to subsidise the fossil fuel industry, which it blames for promoting overconsumption and driving environmental damage – it shows in 2018, fossil fuel consumption subsidies rose to $427 billion (£330.8bn), more than a third higher than in 2017 and above 50% higher than in 2016.
It warns the consequences of increasing air pollution and worsening climate change will likely disproportionately affect children by threatening food production and security, causing malnutrition and damaging the heart, lungs and other vital organs.
It states: “A child born today will experience a world that is more than four degrees warmer than the pre-industrial average, with climate change impacting human health from infancy and adolescence to adulthood and old age. Across the world, children are among the worst affected by climate change.”